Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney maintains a tight grasp on likely Iowa GOP caucus-goers, according to the UI Hawkeye Poll released Monday. But the "big story" for the poll's officials isn't Romney's strong lead at 36.2 percent. It's former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who is now neck and neck in Iowa with national GOP front-runners Rudy Giuliani and Fred Thompson.
Huckabee -- still on a upswing from his surprising second-place finish in the August Straw Poll -- culled 12.8 percent, leading former Tennessee Sen. Thompson, who received 11.4 percent, and lagging slightly behind former New York City Mayor Giuliani, who claimed 13.1 percent. The margin of error was 5.8 percent.
Huckabee's increasing command of evangelical Christians' support in the poll is evidence that he may be the only GOP nomination candidate in position to best Iowa-leading Romney, said David Redlawsk, a UI associate professor of political science and director of the poll.
"If anyone is going to manage to beat Romney, he is going to have to figure out how to motivate the Christian conservatives," Redlawsk said, noting that Giuliani has little chance to mobilize this faction.
Republican-nomination contenders in general have much rousing to do to ensure their supporters come out to caucus Jan. 3.
Even though the number of undecided Republicans has declined since the first Hawkeye Poll was conducted in March, Redlawsk said, the party's Iowa following is still "less connected and less engaged" than its Democratic counterpart. Democrats expressed much more satisfaction with their selection of contenders.
In their poll, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., now leads with 28.9 percent, including strong support from women and those over 45.
"But it's still very much a dogfight among these candidates," Redlawsk said, noting that Rodham Clinton's lead falls within the poll's 5.5 percent margin of error for Democrats.
Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., came in close behind her, commanding 26.6 percent, with a "disproportionate" amount of his support coming from those under 45.
Meanwhile, John Edwards has fallen into third place. The former North Carolina senator stands at 20 percent, down from 26 in August.
His supporters, however, are the most experienced caucus-goers, Redlawsk said. The UI professor said that 75 percent turned out in 2004, while only 54 percent of Obama supporters caucused in that election cycle.
The random poll -- conducted by Redlawsk and Caroline Tolbert, also a UI associate professor of political science -- elicited the help of students to survey 306 Democrat and 285 Republican likely caucus-goers from Oct. 17 through Oct. 24.
The Hawkeye polling program, which began through the UI Social Science Research Center with just $500 and surplus computers and furniture, is expected to cost upward of $100,000 during this election cycle, said Kevin Leicht, a UI professor of sociology and director of the research center.
© 2007 The Daily Iowan via U-WIRE